Menifee Residents Fight Back Against Local Criminal Activity

Jo Morris, a volunteer with Menifee Crime Watch, poses with one of the group's patrol cars. De...

Jo Morris, a volunteer with Menifee Crime Watch, poses with one of the group's patrol cars.
Dec. 11, 2012: Kerrie Castor, a resident of the Menifee Lakes community near Wheatfield Park, reports waking up to find the side gate open, a broken lock box on the side of the house and an old house key missing. The next night, a neighbor's car is stolen.

Dec. 26, 2012: A resident of the Menifee Greens community reports that two males with faces covered and wearing dark hoodies approached a neighbor's house. When confronted by the resident, they fled on foot in two different directions.

Jan. 5, 2013: Jorge Garcia, owner of Pizano's Pizza on Bradley Road, finds a window broken at the front of his restaurant. A check of security video shows a young man wearing a hoodie, looking under the counter and checking the empty cash register around 4:40 a.m. Finding no cash, the man leaves without taking anything.

Jan. 7, 2013: Several homes on Potomac Drive in the Sun City area of town are vandalized with spray paint. Anti-law enforcement messages are sprayed on garage doors and other private property.

These are just a few of the criminal acts reported to Menifee 24/7 and/or local police in the last few weeks. Although overall crime statistics for the last month aren't available, there has been an increase in reports to the media by concerned Menifee citizens.

People are nervous. Some are scared. Some have chosen to fight back -- and they're looking for others to join them.

Officer Nina Zalunardo addresses volunteers
from Menifee Crime Watch.
"They are our eyes and ears," said Officer Nina Zalunardo, community service officer for the Riverside County Sheriff's Dept., who works with local Neighborhood Watch and Crime Watch programs. "A couple years ago, we got help from a Neighborhood Watch group that helped us make a drug bust.

"These programs can be a great help, depending on how active they are."

Therein lies the challenge. Although many Neighborhood Watch groups have been formed in Menifee in recent years and warning signs are posted on street corners, not all groups have remained proactive in watching out for criminal activity. Menifee Crime Watch is very active in the Sun City community, where it was formed in 1978, but requires more manpower in order to patrol all parts of Menifee.

Admitting that they do not have the resources to be everywhere at once, local law enforcement officials urge Menifee residents to do their part as volunteers to help spot potential sources o